Milan beat nine-man Roma to close gap on Inter

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AC Milan put COVID-19 concerns to one side as they beat AS Roma 3-1 in Serie A on Thursday to close the gap on leaders Inter Milan to one point. [photos: xinhua]

AC Milan got its 2022 campaign off to a good start, as it dominated Roma 3-1 at San Siro on Thursday.

A slew of concurrent affairs had stripped the Rossoneri to bare-bones as it missed nearly 10 players due to COVID-19, injuries and Africa Cup of Nations duty, but it had Zlatan Ibrahimovic back into action.

The home side took a dream start just minutes into the game as Tammy Abraham had a handball in the box, Olivier Giroud turned up to convert it.

Milan doubled its lead in the 17th minute, Giroud was involved again as the French hitman intercepted Roger Ibanez's wayward pass to hit the post before Junior Messias followed to pounce on the rebound.

Roma pulled one goal back on the stroke of halftime when Lorenzo Pellegrini's attempt took a slight deflection off Abraham to wrong-foot Milan's goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

The Giallorossi was one player down in the 74th minute when Rick Karsdorp saw red after his second bookable offense, minutes before Ibrahimovic's assist sent Rafael Leao clear to drill home.

Roma's situation went from bad to worse in the dying minutes as it reduced to nine players when Gianluca Mancini also collected his second yellow card after he mistimed his tackle on a rushing Leao in the box, but Ibrahimovic saw his penalty denied by Rui Patricio.

With the win, AC Milan still sits second, one point off city-rivals Inter Milan whose Thursday's game against Bologna was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also on Thursday, Juventus shared the spoils at 1-1 with Napoli, Dries Mertens gave the Partenopei a 1-0 lead, but Federico Chiesa's deflected strike helped the Bianconeri avoid a home defeat.

Elsewhere, Lazio fought back from 2-0 down to settle for a 3-3 tie against Empoli, Cagliari won Sampdoria 2-1 away, Hellas Verona beat Spezia 2-1, Sassuolo drew with Genoa 1-1.

Due to a rising tide of COVID-19 infections, another three fixtures including Atalanta vs Torino, Fiorentina vs Udinese and Salernitana vs Venezia were temporarily canceled.

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